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Thai Magic Tattoos The art and Influence of Sak Yant

Does a Tattoo Change Their Lives?
‘Thai Magic Tattoos the Art and Influence of Sak Yant’ is the first illustrated book dedicated to the art and history of sacred tattoos in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.


‘Thai Magic Tattoos the Art and Influence of Sak Yant’ is the first illustrated book dedicated to the art and history of sacred tattoos in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar that attempts to provide some understanding by which a tattoo may change the life of the bearer.

During the last twenty years, tattooing has experienced a real renaissance in modern societies. For hundreds of years before this, however, Buddhist monks, using magical incantations and spells, have been covering people’s bodies with indelible ink in the belief that the markings will bring luck, wealth, and blessings. 

A widespread belief in Southeast Asia is that tattoos may be invested with some kind of intrinsic power. In this region, there is a long tradition of spiritual tattooing. These inked marks, belonging to the Buddhist world and known in Thailand as Sak Yant or Roi Sak, are believed to influence the life of the bearer. People remain convinced that tattoos provide protection against evil spirits and can render the bearer invulnerable, even to stab wounds and bullets. 

Today, these ancient tattoos are experiencing a revival in popularity, both in their countries of origin and beyond. Fashion or social phenomenon, the demand for these tattoos keeps rising. Hollywood stars, Singaporean businessmen, people from all walks of life flock to Thai Sak Yant masters to have these powerful designs inked onto their bodies. At the same time, these tattooists are regularly invited to practice their art abroad.

Why these sacred tattoos provoke such passion? Who are these men who perform Sak Yant and who are those who get tattooed? Do these tattoos really have magical powers? These questions raise the issue of the influence not only of tattoos but also of amulets, beliefs and rituals, on the mind and health of the individual. Although, formerly regarded as irrational, recently scientific studies show how these beliefs influence a person’s life and how tattoos and other symbols can work as placebos. 

Today, for many people, travel and tattoos go hand in hand. They elect to travel to places where they can have traditional tattoos, and most popular destinations are Tahiti, Japan, New Zeeland, Borneo, Samoa and Thailand.

Partly triggered by Hollywood stars, singers, and sport personalities, every year hundreds of foreigners in search of original and magical tattoos come to Thailand to have a Sak Yant. Fashion or social phenomenon, the sacred tattoos of Thailand benefit  from the flourishing industry of tattoos in general.

In January 2006, according to a Harris Pool, one in five Americans have a tattoo, which means approximately 60 millions of US citizens. In December 2010, a survey from Foster’s reveals that in Great Britain over 39% of adults already have a tattoo and 32% are thinking of getting one. In France, the newspaper Le Parisien published in July 2010 an IFOP survey showing that one in ten people have at least one of these skin ink marks. Nowadays, as Chris Keato, the President of the Baltimore Tattoo Museum said: “The people who don’t have them are becoming the unique ones” (Fox News, June 12, 2006). 

About the authors

Isabel Azevedo Drouyer studied archeology and art history at the Universite Lumiere in Lyon, and at the Universite Charles-de-Gaulle in Lille, France. She conducted a comparative study on iconography (stone sculpture between the 6th and the 11th centuries) between Cambodia and Central Java at the University Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Rene Drouyer, a French post-graduate engineer and a former student of Fine Arts School, is a passionate traveler, illustrator and photographer. His wide-ranging body of photographs and illustrations appeared regularly on the front cover of books, magazines and other publications.After living and working in Europe, Africa and Middle-East, today the authors inhabit Southeast Asia where they prepare their next book. 

Media Contact:
Rene Drouyer or Isabel Drouyer

Cell Phone: 
0066 (0) 863265828
0066 (0) 809136227
0060 (0) 162125570

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